If one’s research is in a hole as deep as evolutionary psychology is when accounting for compassion, why not stop digging?:
Last Sunday, I pointed to a chapter I wrote in The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith: Exploring the Ultimate Questions About Life and the Cosmos (2021) on evolutionary psychology, best understood as the psychology we have derived from our not-quite-human ancestors.
“Not-quite-human ancestors”? Well, if you believe in conventional evolution theory at all, you must suppose that we have not-quite-human ancestors. Thus, to understand the origin of traits like giving to the Heart & Stroke Fund or subscribing to popular science magazines, we must get back to a point before any such institutions could have existed but there was some sort of dim potential. But we can’t really do that because, as noted last Sunday, there is no such thing as a fossil mind.
Early human minds, from what we can glean of them from ancient culture, don’t count. If we thawed out a Neanderthal from the permafrost from 50,000 years ago and managed to communicate with him, what might happen?
Here’s one possibility: He turns out to love football, beer, and french fries. He really, really wants a deer rifle. He is an awesome companion in a deer blind — very quiet and a good shot. Then, one day, sitting for hours overnight in a snowstorm back at the camp, he starts to tell us about his religion… and how he wishes his now forever-lost woman had understood him better…
Have we really got to the bottom of human psychology? Hardly. He could have been born in Ontario, Canada, in 1964 and stepped out of a deer blind somewhere near Peterborough.
And to the extent that we can interpret early human artifacts and symbols at all, they are human artifacts and symbols.
All extant humans have human psychologies. So how are we to gain hard evidence for a not-quite-human psychology that would help us understand the evolution of basic traits? That’s what naturalists would need to explain traits like compassion and religion in wholly evolutionary terms.Denyse O’Leary, “Compassion and religion: Darwin’s unscratchable itches” at Mind Matters News
Takehome: Stop digging? The hole evolutionary psychologists are digging IS the enterprise. Any motive that didn’t merely spread selfish genes would be invisible to them.
You may also wish to read: There is no such thing as a fossil mind. A chapter on evolutionary psychology in Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith (2021) looks at the curious discipline of evolutionary psychology. If our behavior is said to stem from our prehuman past, not from our present circumstances, evolutionary psychology is a discipline without a subject.